The police chief of a city in Texas was put on leave after ordering a SWAT raid on the home of an innocent family and failing to mention it to officials.
Galveston Police Chief Doug Balli has been placed on a ten-day paid administrative leave while an investigation is carried out, the city manager said.
Erika Rios, 39, described how she and her two children were awoken by a SWAT unit at about 2am on January 22. Around 15 flashbangs smashed windows and wooden bullets were fired through the family home, causing an estimated $5,000 in damage.
She, her 18-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son were then handcuffed and detained in police cars, she told Galveston Daily News.
Galveston Police Chief, Doug Balli, has been placed on a ten-day paid administrative leave while an investigation is carried out, the city manager said
Erika Rios, 39, has described how she and her two children were awoken by a SWAT unit at about 2am on January 22
‘There was a major breakdown in communication and we want to figure out why the city was not in the loop,’ City Manager Brian Maxwell told the local newspaper. ‘This decision was solely based on the lack of communication and not related to the raid.’
‘We need to figure out if the communication lapse was just a lack of oversight or whether there was intent,’ Maxwell said. ‘I am a stickler for communication and I do not appreciate being kept out of the loop.’
Galveston Police say they were looking for Cameron Vargas, a 17-year-old suspect involved in a fatal shooting that happened nearby on January 20.
But only did Vargas not live in the house, Galveston police have since said he was misidentified and is no longer a suspect. Vargas had visited the family home earlier in the day but was not there at the time of the raid, Rios said.
The raid was captured on surveillance footage and showed the SWAT team breach the front door before escorting the terrified family members from the house without shoes.
‘I needed to throw up,’ Chelsea Peralez, 18, told Fox 26. ‘They let me step out, and they then told me they were only looking for Cameron, nothing else.’
Rios has estimated that the raid caused $5,000 in damage to her home
Around 15 flashbangs smashed windows and wooden bullets were fired into the house
Wooden bullets (pictured) were fired into the home throughout the raid
During a press conference after a fentanyl overdose less than two weeks before the misdirected raid, Balli alluded to the Galveston SWAT team as he threatened drug dealers in the city.
‘When you sleep at night, you should probably do so with one eye open and wonder if tonight is the night that the Galveston Police Department SWAT team comes knocking at your door,’ he said.
The tactics the SWAT team used on Rios’ home were part of its training, Balli told Galveston Daily News on Thursday.
‘SWAT is trained in a specific way to raid a home, which includes working from the outside in,’ he said. ‘They need to ensure there is no threat to themselves.
‘Police work is inherently dangerous and anytime we have a warrant, we do a threat assessment and since this was related to a murder case, the risk to ourselves increased.’
‘I needed to throw up,’ said Chelsea Peralez. ‘They let me step out, and they then told me they were only looking for Cameron, nothing else
Rios claims that even after the house was cleared police continued to break windows
‘We have eight double-paned storm windows that they shot through, which will cost at least $1,300, a broken-down fence and a heater that won’t work because they tore up the wiring in our attic,’ Rios told the local paper.
She said that even after the house was cleared police continued to break windows. An officer ripped out two cameras in her living room and kitchen, but she still had one that captured the whole raid, she said.
‘When the officer found the other camera, he started laughing and said, “who keeps cameras in their living room,”‘ Rios said.
‘I’ve been left with traumatized kids, no heat in my home and busted windows, all because they were looking for somebody who didn’t even live there, who was also innocent.
‘I’m trying to repair what I can and heal my kids, but it’s hard as a single mother. It has been a whirlwind and it was all so unnecessary.’
The single mother and her children were sleeping at the time of the raid, at 2am on January 22
Rios had home surveillance cameras installed which documented much of the SWAT raid
The mother of the initial incorrectly identified suspect submitted a statement to FOX26 over the false accusation.
Vargas was briefly charged with the murder Malik Dunn, 25, and held on a $250,000 bail, but the charge was later dropped, police said.
‘We are completely disappointed in our police department and in their investigative process,’ wrote Vargas’ mother Terry Borrell.
‘This has been a traumatizing experience that no one should ever go through. We are glad our son’s innocence was proven, but he should have not spent one second in jail. Cameron is an amazing and respectful young man and did not deserve to be slandered and wrongfully accused or even seen as a suspect.’
Balli did not specify whether or not legal action would be taken against the person that allegedly misidentified Vargas.
‘We do not want to deter citizens reporting things to the police, but if it was done maliciously, they could be charged with providing a false statement to police, he told the newspaper.
According to the city website, Balli has more than 26 years of experience in law enforcement. He was made police chief in 2018
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk